Vail civic area plan starts to focus on a few big ideas |

Vail civic area plan starts to focus on a few big ideas

Area around the ice arena, charter bus lot could be 'transformational' for the town

Consultants say the area between Dobson Ice Arena and the Lionshead parking structure could be "transformational" for the town.
What’s next? The Vail Planning and Environmental Commission is about to take its first look at current ideas for the Vail Civic Area Plan. The session is scheduled for Aug. 26 at 11 a.m. in the Vail Town Council chambers. A draft plan will be released Sept. 16. Council approval could come as soon as October.

VAIL — Big ideas are a key part of Vail’s history. The next big ideas may come in what’s known as the town’s “civic area.”

Consultants have spent the past several months soliciting public input and working on ideas for a roughly 10-acre piece of town-owned land that includes the town hall, Lionshead parking structure, Dobson Ice Arena and Vail Public Library. Most of those structures are near, or more than, 40 years old.

The consultant team on Aug. 20 met with the Vail Town Council to provide an update into how the plan is shaping up.

The plan, though, isn’t a strict roadmap of what will happen. Master plans are guidebooks of what a community would like to see in a particular area.

Consultant Tom Braun told council members that a “civic hub” encompassing the library, ice arena and current charter bus parking lot — that’s between the arena and parking structure — could be the plan’s biggest idea.

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“It’s a great place to create a place,” Braun said. “You could do something truly transformational there.”

Whatever big idea is finally laid out in the plan, it will include a rebuild of the arena. The existing arena has a long list of problems, including a leaking refrigeration system.

The big idea for that part of the civic area is also likely to include some sort of space for events.

Lou Bieker of 4240 Architecture, part of the consultant team, told council members that creating a vibrant public space in the ice arena/library area is “about bringing people together.”

Council members said they were largely impressed by the team’s work, with a few exceptions.

Councilmember Greg Moffet said the planners’ idea of expanding parking at the site may not be necessary.

Braun wondered if an events facility could be built without adding parking to the area.

“You’re not going to have events on Dec. 26 at 2 p.m.,” Moffet said, adding that the future of transportation will include self-parking vehicles. That will free up a lot of existing space currently used for passengers getting into and out of cars, he said.

Councilmember Kim Langmaid said she’d like to see more sustainability measures in the plan.

Councilmember Jen Mason had more pragmatic comments, though. Mason for years managed the Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater. She reminded the team to consider practical elements.

“Please consider how two semi (trucks) can come in and out at the same time,” Mason said, adding that any plan for an events center needs to contemplate how to store equipment for one event while hosting another. Other practical matters include how trash and recycling bins are moved around.

“That makes a difference in how people use a space,” Mason said. “And where do the vacuums live?”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at or 970-748-2930.

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